By Sheri Doniger, DDS

October 13, 2011 -- Editor's note: Dr. Doniger's column, Dental Diaries, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

The day started out looking like one of our better office production days in the past few months. We had a full schedule, with three new patients. It'd been a while since we had had such a good day (on paper).

We sailed through our first several patients, referred the first new lady to the surgeon for multiple extractions, and began our next new family. My business manager was attempting to contact their previous dentist to assess radiographic history. She clicked on the dentist's website and moments later, bam! We'd been hit by a virus.

And it was a nasty one. It overrode all of my attempts to install Malwarebytes or install any other antivirus programs. Our computer was shut down. Not a great ending to a good day.

All I could do was disconnect the computer and take it to my IT guru (who happens to be my son-in-law). He, too, was unable to override the virus. My choices: Discard the computer or reformat it. Since we recently installed this computer, I was not ready to toss it. So after several hours, my son-in-law had reformatted the computer, reinstalled the operating system (note to all: Never discard the discs that arrive in the box with your new systems; you never know when you may need them), installed our new antivirus software, and we were ready to go.

Yes, I did say new antivirus software. I had just purchased this software for my second computer in the office but did not have the opportunity to install it on both computers. A very costly mistake. Had my son-in-law not been able to fix the computer that contracted the virus for the cost of a few rounds of golf, it would have been a lengthy, extremely expensive endeavor to have someone else come in to repair the damage.

Seriously, this was a huge error on my part. I am almost ashamed to admit it. I am the first person to talk about background checks for employees, the sanctity of data, and the safety of personnel, but I forgot one of the biggest issues we are facing in this day and age: cybercrime.

I heard from other folks that they, too, had major computer failures that day (the day after Steve Jobs, Apple founder, passed away). Maybe all the viruses were released in his honor. But for whatever reason, the fickle finger of fate affected our cyberworld.

You never know how you get a virus. Was it because my business manager clicked on the other dentist's website? Was it attached to that? Did we open an article from the Web and something was fixed to it? Did it happen months ago, and it was set to release that day? We will never know for sure.

But lesson learned: Install your antivirus protection TODAY. My error may save you both time and money.

Sheri Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2011

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